Meralgia paresthetica involves the compression of a nerve in the upper leg. This causes tingling, numbness, and pain in the outer thigh.
Stretching and strengthening exercises may help release the nerve, thereby easing the symptoms of meralgia parasthetica.
Below, we describe what meralgia paresthetica is and what causes it. We also outline some standard treatments and some exercises that may help alleviate the symptoms.
Meralgia paresthetica involves the compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous (LFC) nerve. This runs from the spine through the pelvis to the skin of the outer thigh.
Any compression of the LFC nerve can cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation in the skin of the outer thigh. Also, some people find that the skin becomes tender or painful.
The compression usually occurs where the nerve exits the pelvis.
Most cases improve with conservative treatments that aim to relieve pressure on the nerve. Examples include:
- wearing loose clothing
- losing weight, for people with overweight or obesity
- performing muscle stretching and strengthening exercises
If the approaches above do not alleviate the symptoms, the doctor may recommend steroid injections to reduce swelling around the nerve. Instead or in addition, they may recommend pain relief medication.
In rare cases, a person needs surgery to release the trapped nerve. Doctors usually only recommend surgery for people with severe or persistent pain. However, surgery is not always successful at alleviating pain.
Doctors and physical therapists may recommend exercises as a first-line treatment for meralgia paresthetica. These help stretch the muscles and tissues in the pelvis and thighs to prevent them from pressing on the LCF nerve.
Below are five exercises that may help ease meralgia paresthetica symptoms.
1) Standing psoas muscle stretch
The psoas muscle extends from the lower back across the pelvis to the top of the leg. It flexes the hip joint and lifts the upper leg.
To perform this stretch:
- Stand about 2 feet from a wall, with the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place both palms on the wall at approximately shoulder height. Or, if preferred, place the hands on the hips, as shown above.
- If touching the wall, keep the elbows fully extended, or keep them bent, if holding the hips, and gently lunge the pelvis toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip.
- Hold the position, taking 10 slow, deep breaths.
- Repeat the exercise at least twice a day.
This exercise strengthens the hip stabilizers.
To perform the exercise:
- Lie on the left side with both feet together and the knees at a 45-degree angle to the hips.
- Slowly raise the right knee. Hold the position for 1 second, then lower the knee to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise 15 times, then switch sides.
- Try to do this at least once a day.
To increase the intensity, a person can place a resistance band around their thighs.
Lunges stretch and strengthen many of the major muscles in the leg, including:
- the quadriceps, at the front of the thighs
- the hamstrings, at the back of the thighs
- the gluteal muscles, which make up the buttocks
In addition, lunges also help improve balance. To increase the intensity of a lunge, a person may prefer to hold a weight in each hand.
To perform a lunge:
- Stand up straight with the hands at the sides of the body.
- Take a big step forward with the right leg, and place both hands on the hips. If holding weights, keep both arms straight against the sides.
- Lower the body until the right thigh is parallel to the floor, and the right shin is vertical. Make sure that the right knee does not go past the toes of the right foot. The tops of the toes should always be visible.
- Repeat the exercise 15 times, then switch to the other leg.
- Do 3 sets of lunges on each side once or twice a day.
Exercising for 30 minutes a day at least three or four times a week should help ease meralgia paresthetica pain. Some exercises to try include:
Meralgia paresthetica involves compression of the LFC nerve, causing numbness, tingling, or pain in the skin of the outer thigh.
Most cases go away on their own or with conservative treatment, such as wearing looser clothing, losing weight if a doctor advises it, and becoming more active.
Doctors and physical therapists recommend a number of exercises for meralgia paresthetica. These focus on stretching and strengthening the muscles in the hips and legs. However, many types of exercise can help ease symptoms of the condition.